March 31, 2010 Leave a comment
We went to Milestones Museum at Basingstoke today. It’s a huge indoor space filled with reconstructions of streets, shops and workshops from times gone by, ranging from the later industrial revolution to the 1930s. We’ve been before, and it always has the same effect on me, a mix of interest, wonder and sadness, not at the passing of time, but at the realisation that much of my life is now in the past and part of that museum, and is more so every time I visit.
I saw toys and games that I played with as a child, and reconstructions of rooms decorated in period styles (1930′s through 70′s) which were so familiar to me, either via the dated house in which my grandparents lived until they passed away in the early 80′s, or in the houses in which I grew up. There was my first pocket calculator, the first vacuum cleaner Nicki and I had, a radiogram and the marvellous floating orb vacuum cleaner of my childhood which could be pushed on a cushion of air from one end of the room to another providing endless fun.
I was able to point out to Caitie cobbler’s (cordwainer’s) tools and equipment the like of which her great great great grandfather would have used every day and at which I once would marvel in my Grandfather’s shed. And the smell! The smell of some of the recreated workshops hit me the same way it used to do when I used to go into that shed with my Grandfather at the age of four or five.
But what affected me most was something far more domestic and everyday. There was a reconstructed two-up/two-down house with an outside loo (inhabited by a rather startled mannequin), snicket and coal-hole that could easily have been my Great Aunt Annie’s house in Hedon as I remember it as a small boy in the 70′s. I was instantly assaulted by a raft of vivid pictures in my mind and was, instantly, that small boy again, racing down with my brother to see Annie from my Grandparents’ home just a hundred yards away. The sadness came, not from a sorrow that those days were long gone, but that I had no-one with me from that time with whom I could share that memory. I just wanted my Mum to be there, or my brother, to share that particular moment of imprinted family memory.
We are creatures of our past; some more than others, and we may deny it, but we all still love to hear of our family trees and long passed relatives who may have touched the world – or not - in some way or another. In a world where the present is everything and the future worrying, in which gratification has to be instant and in which we move constantly in search of work and betterment, we have broken the threads which wove us into our shared pasts.
In these moments when our past is put on display in front of us, and then only if we make ourselves take that moment to really think about it, do we realise that we are, all of us, linked intimately to the past and unbreakably to the future.